Should You Bet on College Football Teams after a Poor Season ATS?

Football season is approaching and the team at Sports Insights has developed some college football betting predictions by taking a look at how the worst teams against the spread (ATS) recovered the following season.  Are those teams poised for another bad year, or will they bounce back?

From our own initial hypotheses, we’d expect some teams to improve based on a few factors: constant player turnover, younger players developing, coaching changes, sportsbooks’ odds adjustments, and public perception. After delving into the data, it’s true that most NCAAF teams with poor ATS seasons recover the following season, but we were surprised to see just how well some of those teams bounced back.

We used our Bet Labs software to find the worst teams ATS (in terms of Units Won/Lost, and 3 or fewer ATS wins) for a given year and then analyzed how that team performed the very next season.

NCAAF ATS Regular Season (does not include bowl games) since 2006:

– 76 of 78 teams (97%) had more ATS wins the following year, 1 had same, 1 had fewer
– 41 of 78 teams (53%) finished .500 or better ATS the following year
– 35 of 78 teams (45%) improved by 4+ games ATS the following year

Since 2006, nearly half the teams improved by at least 4 games ATS. However, in 2012, these teams improved far more than we could have imagined.

Team ATS in 2011 ATS in 2012
Central Michigan 1-11 5-7
Maryland 2-10 6-6
Florida 3-8 7-4
Arizona St. 3-8 7-5
UNLV 3-8 7-5
Penn St. 3-8 10-2
Hawaii 3-9 5-7
Troy 3-9 6-6
Texas A&M 3-9 7-4
Syracuse 3-9 6-6
Florida Atlantic 3-9 8-4
Ole Miss 3-9 8-4
Middle Tenn St. 3-9 8-4

– 13 teams won 3 or fewer games ATS in 2011. The following year (2012), all 13 teams improved by at least 2 games ATS.

– The 13 worst ATS teams went 36-117 ATS (23%) in 2011. In 2012, those same teams combined to go 87-66 ATS (57%), an improvement of over 50 games.
– In 2012, 10 of 13 teams improved by 4+ games ATS.

As you can see, the worst ATS teams from 2011 performed admirably in 2012. By looking at the worst ATS teams in 2012 (in terms of Units Won/Lost, and 3 or fewer ATS wins), we’ve got some potential sleepers to watch out for in 2013.

Worst Teams ATS in 2012 to look out for in 2013:

Arkansas 3-9
Virginia 2-9
Kentucky 2-9
Southern Miss 3-9
Nevada 3-9
Air Force 3-9
Virginia Tech 3-9
Southern Cal 3-9
Illinois 3-9
Colorado 3-9
California 3-9
Idaho 3-9
Miami Ohio 3-8
Auburn 3-8

– 14 teams finished with 3 or fewer ATS wins in 2012-13. According to our historical data, we’d expect about 6 or 7 of them to improve by 4+ games ATS in 2013-14.



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Dan McGuire

Dan McGuire is the Operations Manager and soccer specialist at Sports Insights. He can be reached at

5 comments on “Should You Bet on College Football Teams after a Poor Season ATS?
  1. What was the criteria for being a bad ATS team? Did you pick a fixed number each year? Interesting concept but lack of data presented diminshes its value.

    • We focused on the 12 teams who won 3 or fewer games against the spread (ATS) in 2011. Based on that criteria, we looked at the teams who won three or fewer games ATS last season.

  2. great stuff………….. but do we want to bet on a 2-10 ATS team if it “improves” to 5-7 ATS team?

    i think the key metric is ATS % vs. 50% the next year… and 2012 was good. those teams were 60% which is really good (back of envelope/eyeballing it…. i see them at 85-57…..

    i’ve done stuff like this but it bounces around……..

    one thing i do find though is extreme ATS often leads to extreme ATS the next year (in either direction). same with over/under…………… so i wondered if you could use first game of next year as a filter.

  3. I think this should be used to not play against them.
    The most interesting thing to know would be “When they’ve win this game ATS?” “first part of the season?” This should be important, because you’ve to assume that after a bad ATS year oddsmaker give them some point against respect the year before!

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